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Kerri L. Johnson; How perceptions of body motion and morphology affect complex social judgments. Journal of Vision 2005;5(8):940. doi: 10.1167/5.8.940.
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Bodily cues such as shape and motion reliably affect social perception. Historically, the perception of these cues has been studied in isolation. Recent research has provided new insights regarding the relative importance of shape and motion for person perception. Morphology, for example, is a more potent visual cue for biological sex, and motion is a more potent visual cue for gender (i.e., masculinity & femininity). The confluence of these percepts is likely to affect higher-order social perception, or meta-perception, yet these have received minimal attention to date.
We explored how body motion and morphology affect the perception of sex and gender, and how these perceptions in turn affect perceived attractiveness and perceived sexual orientation. Stimuli were animated human walkers that varied in motion (from extreme shoulder “swagger” to extreme hip “sway”) and morphology (waist-to-hip ratios, WHR, from 0.5 to 0.9). Participants judged each walkers' biological sex, gender, sexual orientation, and attractiveness.
Walkers with small WHRs — corresponding to a female percept — were judged to be more attractive and heterosexual when “swaying,” but to be less attractive homosexual when “swaggering.” In contrast, walkers with larger WHRs — corresponding to a male percept — were judged to be less attractive and homosexual when “swaying,” but to be more attractive and heterosexual when “swaggering.” Importantly, the relative potency of motion and morphology for perceived sexual orientation differed for targets perceived to be male and targets perceived to be female. Morphology was the more potent determinant of perceived sexual orientation for walkers judged to be female. The opposite was true, however, for judged to be male; for these walkers motion was the more potent determinant of perceived sexual orientation. These results highlight the importance of “meta-perception” in determining how physical characteristics such as motion and morphology are perceived and ultimately evaluated.
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